The essence of a Pilgrimage is walking and the distance between Paris and Chartres is about 75 miles, and all of this takes three days. So you can tell how far we walk each day! It may seem a lot, and to be honest most of us, me included, do not walk much and the idea of walking 25 miles in 24 hours is enough to make us blanch in fear. Many of this practical things of the Pilgrimage are designed to get you through the days. Singing and praying and listening to spiritual talks helps the whole thing pass by, hopefully with the mind on holy things, and not on sore feet.
Over Pentecost weekend there will be about 10,000 people walking and they are arranged into groups of about 30-60 people. These groups come from all over the world. They may be because they all come from one place or organisation, or in the case of the English groups, they are arranged by age. These are called “Chapters”. The Chapters are accompanied by chaplains. This year with the English group, there will be six of us. The Priests are there to hear confessions, give one to one spiritual advice, or instruction in the faith, as well as to help lead the Rosary, meditations and talks.
It is not often in life that you get the chance to concentrate on only one thing. And even less often is it possible for that thing to be spiritual. The Pilgrimage gives you that opportunity. There is nothing else to do. You cannot check your emails, watch TV, do the ironing.
And the only thing to distract you from the mundane trudge of mile after mile, are the prayers to Our Lady, the talks on spiritual things, and the internal monologue that forces you to face the reason that you are there – your relationship with God.
You sing and walk and pray. And Our Lady sings, walks and prays with you.